The Beginning Of After is a heartbreaking story that strips grief and loss down to its barest and most raw form to show the upward, grueling journey one must take in order to live and thrive in the “After.” I loved the title of this book and found it an incredibly accurate descriptor for how one who grieves categorizes time, memories and events and Castle did a great job of showing what the “beginning of after” is like in a tragic situation.
I mentioned before in reviews of books with similar themes that I find myself always, as someone who has lost a parent and experience what it is like to fully grieve that loss, being even more critical when it comes to stories of grief in YA literature. Everyone’s grief is different but yet, at its most bare form, it shares many similar characteristics that those who have grieved can recognize from their story of grief. I look for it. I do. And I have to say that Jennifer Castle was able to deliver a realistic portrait of the grieving process that shook me to my core and stirred up some overwhelming emotions for me…although not enough to cry which surprises me. It was raw and honest, rather than contrived, and I found myself shaking my head to passages that looked as though they could have been ripped from the pages of my journal. I wished for a little bit more of the “in her head” moments because I think that dialogue really could have added more to it but I did find these little moments to resonate deeply.
But that might be where this novel could fall flat for some. A few people, during a conversation on Twitter, found that they just could not connect at all and felt as though they were missing something because they hadn’t experienced something like this. For as much as I could feel it, I could see how some might find it hard to connect to a huge propelling force in this book if that hadn’t experienced it and maybe in some ways the narrative failed to provide those places for (those who haven’t experienced that kind of loss) to actually feel as though they HAD like a story really should. This is where I think more internal dialogue could have really helped. It’s hard to understand why she’s fixating more on a boy from class taking her to prom then her grief if you don’t understand the thought process behind it like someone grieving might. It’s that facade of normalcy that you are trying to achieve while repressing some of your inner turmoil.
But strangely, while I connected so emotionally to this journey of grief, I did not find myself connected to the main characters. Laurel and I had that grief in common yet I felt as though I couldn’t quite break through to really care about her. I felt like I just didn’t care where the story ended up, I was bored and felt as though it just kept dragging on and not really going anywhere at all. I wanted to root for her to triumph through her grief but there were few things in the story that really motivated me to do aside from my own personal connections which wasn’t as powerful for me as some other YA books dealing with grief. I kept losing interest and it never really stood out for me nor provided me with unforgettable characters. I liked it and felt some obvious connections to the grief, but in the end, that was about it. I had really high hopes for this one and I’m not really sure why it fell flat for me ultimately.
* I received this book from review from the publisher in exchange for an honest review and in no way had an effect on what I’ve written in regards to this book.
Here’s a guest post with Jennifer Castle that I featured this week.
Have you read this one? Did you have a different experience with it than I did? What are some other YA books you’ve read with similar themes?